Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sweet Lou returns to Navin Field


Former Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker reunites with 1984 teammate Dave Rozema at the site of old Tiger Stadium.


By Tom Derry

On Monday morning, the members of the Navin Field Grounds Crew were busy fixing up the historic baseball diamond at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. The crew always prepares the field for baseball games and tourists throughout the summer. 

But on this day, they were also grooming the field in anticipation of a visit from some of the 1984 Tigers, Detroit's last World Series champions.

Around 10:30 a.m., two familiar-looking figures walked through an open gate on Michigan Avenue and headed out toward the playing field. 

"Looks like Lou Whitaker and Dave Rozema are here," somebody said.
And sure enough, there they were.


We met up with Lou and Dave near the first baseline, and welcomed them back home.

Everyone introduced themselves to Whitaker. Rozema was already familiar with us, as he recently pitched on Navin Field's historic mound a month earlier, as part of a wedding event.

I asked Lou if he wanted to go out to second base. He started to walk toward first base, deliberately stepping on the grass, to avoid our freshly swept and chalked baseline.

"It's O.K.," I told him. "You can walk on the base path."

When Lou got to first base, he turned toward second base and picked up steam. 

"Do you want to see me slide into second?" he asked. 

Lou didn't slide, but he stood atop the base that he anchored for 19 seasons in Detroit. Sweet Lou was back home, where he played for years alongside his longtime double-play partner, shortstop Alan Trammell.

Lou was happy to pose for pictures with everyone, signed autographs, and reminisced about Tiger Stadium. He said this wasn't his first time visiting the field since the historic structure was demolished in 2009. 

Lou occasionally visits the old grounds when he's in town. Then he likes to get a bite to eat at Nemo's Bar or O'Blivions Cafe on Michigan Avenue.

As Lou stood in the infield Monday morning, he gazed out onto Trumbull Avenue, where he launched most of his 146 home runs at Tiger Stadium. Only Al Kaline, Norm Cash, and Hank Greenberg hit more.

Lou was amazed by the vast expanse of grass on the lot. 

"It must take you guys three days to cut all this," he said.

He was impressed with the efforts of our grounds crew, as was his old teammate Rozema.

We hope Lou and Dave will come back and visit our field again one day. Perhaps next time, they'll bring more of the 1984 team with them.

"If You Restore It, They Will Come."

Tom Derry is the founder of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, as well as Detroit's original Babe Ruth Birthday Party.

4 comments:

  1. Absolutely wonderful. I am so glad to see this place becoming a place of pilgrimage for those who love it and those who played there. Perhaps some day the city will also see all this love and the care you all give the diamond and will permanently protect the ballpark. I hope so. I still haven't made it back. I need to- I need to introduce my husband and kids to The Corner.

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  2. It sickened me when I learned that the Tigers had issued #1 to Jose Iglesias (who?). Hopefully when Lou becomes eligible in 2016, the BBHOF Veterans Committee will finally rectify Whitaker's first-year slight by the BBWAA.

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  3. Awesome! I hope one day to get back and be able to stand on that field....and it sure would be fantastic if Sweet Lou was back that same day too! Hey, a girl can dream.

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